A conversation with Acquinta "AJ" Jones
What is a joy factor?
A joy factor is exactly that, a joy factor in schools! Whether it’s a bulletin board that’s bringing the joy, a decorated classroom, a teacher lounge restoration, or time just to create we bring joy visually to your classroom, schools, and organizations.
So tell us a little bit about how you started a Joy factor?
Doing bulletin board decor is something that I truly enjoy, from looking at them to doing them, the passion is there. However, as a teacher with other responsibilities, time and resources are always limited. So I wanted to find a way to make it a bit more simple for teachers and schools to accomplish the visual goals without the exhaustion. I've been teaching for 11 years, and even for me it's the last thing to get done, but the first thing you notice when you walk into a room. So once I realized this was a major pain point for most teachers I started to do my research to figure out how I could solve it while bringing the joy.
Also bulletin boards are often underutilized. They can be used to teach and differentiate, so they’re not just for displaying student work and I try to showcase this with folks who are interested in making their boards more functional spaces in their classrooms. I did a ton of research on supplies and costs, and even repurposed materials, because the challenge for most schools is how can we get it done quicker and more economically. And this is where A Joy Factor comes in to support with planning, materials, and execution.
What are some of the more creative items you’ve used on a bulletin board?
I made a snowman out of plastic cups, once. You name it, I've used it, from paper cups, plastic cups, ribbon, plates, to picture frames. Dollar tree becomes your best friends, especially the holiday section. I think it helps to think outside of the box, and add dimension to the work. It makes the boards stand out, and really gets onlookers attention.
What's one challenge you face as a female entrepreneur of color?
I think when you say you want to start a business as a black female, most people assume it has something to do with lashes, makeup , or an online clothing boutique, and for me none of those are the case. So I think just getting folks to realize their is validity in new ideas. One challenge I have faced within the work, is that folks will start asking you to take over all the boards within a school if they see you doing them well, so this extra work can be hard to balance. My biggest thing I want to avoid is staying too late or coming in super early. Essentially I want to show teachers this can be done during a prep or planning period, and off the clock time isn’t necessary.
What gift/act would make all the difference?
The biggest gift I could use right now is Investment Capital. This influx of funding would allow me to build an inventory of materials. The startup costs can be taxing, and having some funding would allow me to execute more boards faster. I also need support with organization, specifically creating schedules and time for the business amidst my teaching responsibilities. If there's a tool or a platform, or if there’s someone out there who can support, I could use you.
Where do you see A Joy Factor in 5-10 years?
I see A Joy Factor in schools nationwide, not just doing bulletin boards, but also PDs on why it's important to have creative time and art integration for educators. I want to bring back the joy factor through art, and allows space for teachers to create and unwind. I also want to support other educators rolling out this model in their state, so I see A Joy Factor becoming a franchise-like model. Finally, I see A Joy Factor as a store front, kind of like school box, but with stations where you can apply the tricks with the latest tools (ie. cricut, di-cut machine, silhouette, cameo). These machines are about $200-$300 each and we want to give educators access to these more readily without having to pay the huge costs. We want to create a space where Teachers can come and use our tools and resources to create. We’d also have hours that suit teacher’s schedules.
What do you want our readers to know about you?
I really love doing this work. I love the DIY world, especially pinterest, and I am always picking up new skills. Also no board is ever the same. I take pieces from others as inspiration, and let my imagination do the rest, so reach out so I can design your next board!
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Tell us a bit about the work you do on a daily basis and how you got started?
I'm the Founder & Executive Director of BK International Education Consultancy (BKIEC), an accredited education consulting firm where we customize program design, project management, and professional learning support for K-12 school districts, nonprofits, and government agencies. Prior to BKIEC, I was a STEM career professional and classroom teacher. BKIEC was launched with the goal to create transformative change by building stronger learning communities, and educators are at the heart of these learning communities. We envision building the capacity of educators to best serve students. Too learn more about what we do check out our website at www.bkconsultancy.org.
Tell us why you think grant writing is crucial for a school’s overall health?
Grant writing is crucial for school's health, because it provides additional funding and resources to meet school's needs to best support students, teachers, and families. It also provides opportunities for strategic partnerships and innovation.
How do you support schools with this?
One area of support offered by BK International Education Consultancy to schools is through our grant writing face-to-face trainings and online micro-courses. They support educators understanding of the various types of grants and assist them with identifying their needs through data-based decision making. For example, if a school is interested in implementing restorative practices we walk through a needs assessment to identify what data supports this need, and what grant opportunities are available to support the initiative. Through grant funding resources could be allocated for services or products by companies like Restore More.
Tell us about a time you secured funds and how it impacted teachers or students?
Our team has secured funds to support various district, school, and classroom-level projects. For instance, a Toshiba Foundation grant was used to support an elementary's schools robotics program which served 100 students in Atlanta, Georgia. The funds afforded them the opportunity to visit a Hyundai vehicle manufacturing plant in Alabama to see how robotics are used to make everyday products, such as cars.This funding impacted both teachers and students, because it gave a real-world connection between classroom content and college and career readiness. The kids and teachers still remember this trip, and how robotics connect to our daily lives. This is one example of how grants can support meaningful learning experiences.
Why are you passionate about this work?
BK International Education Consultancy is passionate about grant training because knowledge is power, and building teacher capacity is key to instructional impact. We believe that by educating teachers on grant writing, they can use their own diverse skill set to master the technique, and then be empowered to attain resources on behalf of their schools and students.
What do you want our readers to know?
BKIEC is continuing to grow locally, throughout the US, and internationally. We look forward to providing additional program design, project management, and professional learning services to K-12 school districts, nonprofits, and government agencies in 2020. Interested? Follow up with us by Scheduling a 30-min consultation HERE. Want to do some research first, check out our info on grants HERE.
What advice do you have for people looking to learn this skill?
Educators naturally have the foundational skills to write grants. We show educators how to leverage skills they already have to write their first grant. We also have a new book coming out that delves into this more for individual educators interested in reducing the use of personal funds for their classroom, and learning grant writing on their own. Finally, we have an online micro-course called the Grant Writing for Educators - Level 1, which is $29, and you earn CEUs/PLUs for recertification. Interested in taking a course? Review our micro-courses HERE.
Founder & Executive Director of BK International Education Consultancy
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